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A Lens to Reimagine Change: Quang Tran, PSP'17

Quang TranQuang Tran may not know exactly what his future holds, but he is sure of one thing: wherever his career leads, it will be in the service of young children who have experienced trauma.

“Regardless of the context — clinical, educational, religious, etc. — I want to accompany people, youths in particular, in their suffering,” says Tran, who is hoping eventually to continue his studies in either clinical or counseling psychology, expanding on what he has learned in the Prevention Science and Practice (PSP) Program’s research strand.

Initially attracted to the Ed School because of Betsy McAlister Groves’ childhood trauma course, after a year at HGSE Tran’s desire to study the effects of that trauma on children’s development has not changed. Neither has his goal of developing the research skills necessary to design and implement interventions that will allow these children to thrive. “But now I have new tools and new lenses to re-imagine change — within myself and in the world around me,” he says. “I am better equipped to know ‘what needs to happen to make it happen,’ in the words of Dr. Stephanie Jones.”

“Quang’s commitment to a life of service and his specific commitment to supporting those who have experienced trauma has been an asset to the PSP community this year. He brings warmth and a community spirit to his classes and our community gatherings, always adding more depth to discussion and empathy to our work,” says Senior Lecturer Mandy Savitz-Romer, faculty director of PSP. “Without question, Quang will take full advantage of his bold and brave decision to participate in the PSP research track, making use of what he has learned this year in order to make sure the impact of his practice will have a truly powerful effect on those who will benefit from his compassion.”

Tran will receive the Intellectual Contribution Award for PSP at Convocation on May 24. Here, he discusses his year at the Ed School and his hope for what is to come.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career? Never idolize data, have a healthy amount of self-doubt, and see setbacks as opportunities.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? I wish I could acknowledge the director of my program (Dr. Savitz-Romer) and all of the phenomenal professors (and Karen Bottari!) who have enriched my experience at HGSE this year, but I’ll just mention two here: Professors Bob Selman and Nancy Hill.

If and when I grow up, I want to be like Professor Selman. With a perpetually youthful spirit, he shows so much interest and curiosity in the thoughts and ideas of his students.  He cares about incorporating and integrating good, truth, and beauty in research. He gave me a very human introduction to the art and science of research.

Professor Hill was my adviser and research practicum professor. Her demand for rigorous, quality, and meaningful work has made me a better student. She guided my choices but gave me the freedom to choose. She shared a lot of her wisdom this year easing me into the HGSE experience and giving me confidence in my abilities.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year? I could not have asked for a more supportive and inspiring cohort. It seemed like PSP folks were always together during and after school hours. Given the nature of the program, the cohort shared deeply and congealed quickly. This group with so many characters brought me much laughter and joy this past year.

Any special study spots? I loved studying and taking power naps in one of those big purple chairs by the windows facing Appian Way.

If you could transport one thing from HGSE to your next destination, what would it be? One of those big purple chairs by the windows facing Appian Way.

What will you change in education and why? I would emphasize social and moral development through the arts and humanities. In education we often talk about what is right and just but not so much about goodness and mercy. We talk about empathy but not virtue, knowledge but not wisdom, facts but not truth. Across cultures, the arts and humanities explore these nuances and can enhance students’ interpersonal skills and ability for discernment regardless of their circumstances.

Read about the other recipients of this year's Intellectual Contribution Award.